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Today many customers who are looking into Business Process Monitoring (BPMon) as part of SAP Solution Manager are overwhelmed by the variety of different key figures that are shipped out-of-the-box by SAP. As a consequence many customers do not know how to get started with BPMon and especially where to start in order to get "quick wins" and first measurable benefits as quickly as possible for supporting a possible business case that should back-up a larger Business Process Monitoring implementation.

This blog won't be able to help you create a business case but this blog will tell you what the typical use cases are where other customers introduced Business Process Monitoring successfully. The following four use cases

  • Automating labor intensive monitoring tasks
  • Internal benchmarking and gaining business process transparency
  • Support and safeguard GoLives
  • Monitor SOX compliance

will be shortly explained in loose order together with its possible benefits. There is no prioritization of use cases as the benefits differ largely from customer to customer depending on the pain points they currently have respectively. The use cases are of course not really decoupled from each other but just the opposite as all functionality comes as one within Business Process Monitoring. Hence many customers are using BPMon in order to achieve benefits for different uses cases all at the same time.

 

Automating labor intensive monitoring tasks:

Monitoring tasks like monitoring background jobs or interfaces (IDocs, BDocs, qRFC etc.) are often executed manually at customer side calling some expert transactions like SM37, BD87 or SMQ1 in regular time intervals and checking for errors. These labor intensive monitoring tasks are binding valuable IT resources and keep IT employees from working on other activities providing more added value to the company. For this reason many customers utilize the rather technical monitors of Business Process Monitoring like background job monitoring, IDoc monitoring, tRFC or qRFC monitoring, Batch Input monitoring, ABAP dump or Update error monitoring etc. This allows automating monitoring tasks and only work based on exceptions, i.e. if a background job cancels or an IDoc is in error status then an email is sent to the respective IT employee in order to resolve the problem as quickly as possible. If no notification is raised then everything works smoothly and your IT staff can work on other valuable activities.

One advantage of this use case is that it can often be handed solely by IT and the business department needs not be involved.

 

Internal benchmarking and gaining business process transparency:

Many IT organizations only get their funding for a Business Process Monitoring implementation via the corresponding business department. As the business department often sees no direct value for automating labor intensive (IT) monitoring tasks another use case comes handy in order to get also business buy-in. During the last 2-3 years the Business Process Monitoring became more and more application specific and provides application related key figures called Throughput and Backlog Indicators (TBIs). Some of these kef figures have already been explained in previous blogs about Best Practice: Business Process Monitoring for Order to Cash, Best Practice: Business Process Monitoring for Procure to Pay and Best Practice: Business Process Monitoring for Manufacturing. These TBIs are often answering questions (automatically) that the business likes to ask and where the business has to retrieve this kind of data manually. These application key figures allow internal benchmarking over different sales or purchase organizations, plants, warehouses or shipping points.  You can analyze quickly, which organizational units are performing better than the average and which ones are performing below the average. You can identify which organizational units are following the defined business process templates and which ones are not and in the worst case in which organizational units the end-users are even bypassing the system. These key figures also allow a new quality of process transparency and indicate where processes could be improved (e.g. configuration issues or process design gaps). Especially the backlog figures are of important indicators showing where business documents are not processed quickly enough or are even not processed at all.

Furthermore, using these key figures you can identify reduction potential for old business data in order to clean-up your systems. This means old and open business documents that will not be touched by the business anymore. Since these business documents are in status "Open" they cannot be archived and they will remain open and in the system forever. This could lead to the following negative consequences:

  • Performance impact on other transactions/reports/processes
  • Wrong planning results
  • Inadequate reporting results
  • Large end-user worklists (containing documents not needed anymore) may lead to end-user inefficiency

As all BPMon data can be New Business Process Monitoring functionalities in SAP Solution Manager - BPMon Trend Analysis Reporting, a trend analysis over weeks or months is also possible that allows becoming even more pro-active then just relying on the alert mechanisms of BPMon.

There are even customers that use BPMon only as a means to get the data into SAP BW in a first step and utilize the reporting capabilities first before looking into the alert monitoring part.

This use case is normally ideal to get business buy-in but obviously requires also a good collaboration between business and IT department.

 

Support and safeguard GoLives:

A new GoLive (even if it is only a roll-out to a new country or new business unit) is always a special challenge especially from a Change Management and organizational perspective. Most customers invest in special IT teams to support the GoLive in what is often called "hyper-care phase". Now the goal is always to keep the hyper-care phase as short as possible but often the hyper-care takes longer than expected and the exit-criteria is not clearly defined and not easily measurable for customers. The above mentioned Throughput and Backlog Indicators (TBIs) were nearly all developed based on SAP Support experience with customer GoLives and critical customer situations. Hence switching-on Business Process Monitoring with its TBIs during GoLives can help evaluating if a GoLive is successful from a technical as well as application perspective. Incidents or even problems can be identified earlier on and hyper-care phases can be shortened.

Many customers set-up not only backlog but also throughput key figures in order to understand if the appropriate, anticipated business throughput is met. Once the new solution runs stable a lot of key figures are switched-off again and only a sub-set of key figures (often backlog figures) is continuously monitoring leading back to the use case "Internal benchmarking and gaining business process transparency" described above.

 

Monitor SOX compliance:

One use case came somewhat as a surprise as Business Process Monitoring was never designed for this purpose. But many customers approached SAP and said that selected key figures that are provided out-of-the-box by BPMon are exactly answering questions about SOX compliances that auditors are looking at. Examples would be "Outbound deliveries with Goods Issue posted but no invoice created" or "Sales invoices not transferred to accounting". We have also seen that especially those customers that "cleaned" their SAP systems of old business documents  in order to meet SOX compliance showed exceptionally well results during SAP's Business Process Analysis service where selected BPMon key figures are executed in the customer system.

Although we cannot provide a list of meaningful key figures that definitely help the monitoring of SOX compliance you should possibly have a look yourself in the key figure catalog (login required) and cross-check the key figures provided with your SOX requirements.

 

Frequently Asked Questions about Business Process Monitoring are answered under http://wiki.sdn.sap.com/wiki/display/SM/FAQ+Business+Process+Monitoring.

 

The previous blogs provide further details about Business Process Monitoring functionalities within the SAP Solution Manager.

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